This has been a challenging school year. My son not only had to go from Elementary school, to fully remote during the COVID lockdown, then all of a sudden to middle school in full swing.
To say he “greatly dislikes” middle school is an understatement. He struggles with the material, but, during the fully remote learning environment he really had some at home advantages.
Most notably, he was able to use his Desktop PC for school. This includes a 27" 4k monitor (he gets my hand-me-downs), his favorite mechanical keyboard, mouse, headphones and webcam. This is about 100x better than the school provided chromebook.
He was dreading going back to school, and one of the things he identified that gave him angst was the chromebook. They are cheap, small, have horrible TN panels, and limited peripheral support.
So, before school started, him and I went laptop shopping. I let him go to Best Buy, Walmart, and Target where he and I could touch, look, feel each laptop. Tactile sensations are important to him. I also wanted to make sure I got him something that would last 8 hours and have a nice screen.
We settled on an HP Pavilion X360. Its a 14" laptop, pretty good battery life, and a very nice 1080p touch screen (which he loves).
We even got him a little wireless mouse he can keep in his backpack. He likes to use it at home as well.
Well, the other week while we were getting him ready for school in the morning he said his laptop was “acting weird”. It was running 100%, and stuck in the BIOS for some reason. That however was not the concerning part. His display was cracked and I would wager to guess 25% of the screen was unreadable.
The kicker is he told me it had been like that FOR A MONTH and he found it usable.
There were other issues. He also told me the sound did not work.
First thing first, he had to take his Chromebook to school. He was not happy about that. Second thing was to call Best Buy. I still had the receipt, and it was 3 months old at this point. After spending 45 minutes on the phone with Best Buy, I’ll save you the time they didn’t save me, it was not covered. I only had 14 days to return it, there is no exchange, and I had to call HP.
So, not shocked, I called HP. After another 30+ minute chat I was told that I only had the “normal” warrant, and this wasn’t covered. I asked what it would cost to repair and I was told around ~$700.
I bought it for $600
So obviously this was a no go.
BUT I have an iFixIt kit, and I’m brazen and occasionally capable.
Here is the damage:
I had to find a new panel, and that felt like the sketchiest part of the job. I found one on amazon, for a steep price of $220. That is still better than a new laptop.
While I wanted for that to arrive, I had to investigate the audio issue. I assumed it was a software/driver issue, because thats always the problem right?
After seeing no sound devices in Windows, and nothing in the device manager, my next step was to go into the BIOS/Utility menu. HP Provides a suite of tests, all of them worked EXCEPT the sound test. It said it was not available on that system.
Hmm, okay, how about booting into a more verbose OS, say, Ubuntu?
No dice there either! This was becoming quite the mystery, and I was determined to get to the bottom of this before purchasing a new panel. For all I knew, the LCD wasn’t the only thing cracked.
It was time to open the laptop up. Honestly, I didn’t have high expectations once it got to this part. This is the equivalent of my car breaking down and me popping the hood praying for an obvious cable dangling.
I have no pictures, but the laptop was a pain top get open. Lots of screws. When I started inspecting the motherboard, I noticed greenish corrosion on the m.2 drive, which is also right next to the audio jack. This was suspiciously looking like my smoking gun! I used a toothbrush we use for cleaning, and some alcohol to clean the terminal off. After getting the mainboard off, I noticed the sound IC ALSO had the same corrosion. I cleaned that side off as well.
Once I got it all cleaned, dried and buttoned back up I turned it back on and we had working audio again.
No one was as impressed with myself as I was.
I asked Owen if his water bottle had ever leaked on his laptop he said “Oh, maybe”
Fast forward a week, and the new panel arrived.
Opening up and replacing the panel did not require a full disassemble, so I only had to use a thin spudger/shim to pop the screen out. The connectors were the only thing I had to worry about, they are taped down and look pretty fragile.
I was very careful sliding it back in place, I did not want another cracked screen on my hands.
The scary part, is I had to reboot the laptop twice for the screen to work. I suspect internally windows detected a new display device and a reboot was in order. I knew it was working because the boot splash screen came up fine.
He’s not allowed to take it back to school until we get a sleeve or something to protect it. I’m pleased with the work though, and Owen is glad to have his laptop back.
So, HP can eat a bag to thumbtacks for wanting that much. I don’t know why I didn’t get the extortion device protection plan, but I’m not sure this is even covered.
I would however like to repair MORE laptops. This was fun, and maybe I should get a heat station so I can replace surface mount circuits.